Ancient Olympic Wrestling

Ancient Olympic Wrestling Archeological Wonders Sports Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Legends and Legendary People

Although wrestling was not initially an ancient-Olympics sport, it was added to the games circa 708 B.C.  The event took place in a muddy arena known as a keroma.

How did the ancient Greeks wrestle?  FILA (the International Federation of Wrestling Styles) provides background on wrestling, ancient-Greek style:

For the Greeks, wrestling was a science and a divine art, and it represented the most important training for young men. Athletes wrestled naked, with their bodies coated with olive oil and covered with a layer of very thin sand to protect the skin from sunlight or from cold during winter.  After wrestling, they scraped this layer off with an instrument called strigil and washed themselves with clear water.

Fights were similar to those of freestyle wrestling, as shown by drawings and inscriptions from that time. The competitor who first threw his opponent or first brought him down - either on his back, hips, chest, knees or elbows - was proclaimed winner.

Was this style also used in the ancient Olympics?  FILA provides that background, too:

During the ancient Olympic Games, from 708 B.C., wrestling was the decisive discipline of the Pentathlon. In fact, it was the last discipline to be held – after the discus, the javelin, the long jump and the foot race – and it designated the winner of the Pentathlon, the only crowned athlete of the Games.

The most famous of all wrestlers was Milon of Croton (student of the philosopher Pythagoras), six times Olympic champion (from 540 to 516 B.C.), ten times winner of the Isthmic Games, nine times winner of the Nemean Games, and five times winner of the Pythic Games. Legend has it that when he tried to splinter a tree with his own hands, his fingers got stuck in the split tree-trunk and he was devoured by a lion.

Athletes, participating in the ancient Olympics, had two forms of wrestling.  One form was on the ground (kato pale) while the other form was standing-up (orthia pale).  Each form had different holds and different ways to win.

If the athletes were standing, they tried to throw an opponent to the ground three times.  A match ended when the third grounding took place.

If the athletes were on the ground, they continued to wrestle until one of the opponents acknowledged defeat.  The signal of defeat was holding-up one’s right hand and extending the index finger.

This image depicts wrestling in the ancient-Greek fashion.  In addition to the athletes, we see a man with a rod.  He is likely a trainer.

Media Credits

Image online courtesy Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports.



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"Ancient Olympic Wrestling" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Nov 20, 2019.
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